New flight for Junior

May 06, 2008 7:00 PM
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Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz | Past performances can be used for more than handicapping. Sometimes, reminiscing is more fun than profit.

The memories came flooding back when I saw the only fight next Saturday that even has a line involved Junior Witter, a 34-year-old junior welterweight titlist from Yorkshire. Typically, the memories were not of Witter himself.

I think, instead, of Mike Tyson, the delicious story of him holding Frank Warren by the ankles, dangling the promoter outside a window; the 38-second knockout of Lou Savarese that obviously was not satisfying enough because he bowled over Referee John Coyle in an attempt to continue hitting the beaten opponent, and then – adrenalin still coursing – the threat to eat Lennox Lewis’s unborn children.

Ah, the memories brought back by seeing Witter listed at -700 to hold his slice of the 140-pound title this coming Saturday night in Nottingham against not the famed sheriff who chased Robin Hood, but a modest undefeated American challenger in Timothy Bradley (+500).

It was a typical British summer night, cold and rainy, the only time I saw Witter fight. Well, "fight" might not be the correct verb. I would substitute "flight." He ran for 10 rounds against Zab Judah on June 24, 2000 in a Glasgow stadium that offered ringsiders no shelter but their own brollies.

The ringside press adjourned to the upper decks, though during one lull in the storm "Fast Eddie" Schuyler of the Associated Press noted how he needed to protect his ringside telephone and sat huddled under a mac, sheltering his link to outside deadlines.

Later, I recall, all phone service was lost so Eddie and I had to scurry back to our hotels by cab in order to file our stories of Tyson’s anti-social behavior and strange appetites. Judah-Witter was the featured bout on the Tyson-Savarese undercard and Witter (laughingly nicknamed "The Hitter") acted like a scared rabbit.

Off that one performance, or lack thereof, we are lucky that he cannot only run, but he can hide. That was his only loss against 36 victories, 21 by knockout, and two very early draws in a career that began in 1987 and which has strayed outside of the United Kingdom only three times – twice to the Canary Islands, once to Germany.

Witter, despite his fear of the young IBF junior welterweight champion, evidently has skills. He must be dangerous, not because in his last WBC defense, back in September, he stopped the once-mighty Vivian Harris in the seventh round, but for the respect Ricky Hatton, the division’s leader, has given him.

Hatton is a natural rival, yet has systematically ducked Witter for all these years. Witter has won 21 straight since his flight from Judah, including victories over Lovemore N’Dou and Demarcus ("Chop Chop") Corley, the latter for the vacant WBC title in 2006.

At 34, Witter seems to be as good as ever. Bradley, 10 years younger at 24, is largely untested. His "big" victory came last year on points against Donald Camarena.

The man from Palm Springs is in ripped shape, as usual, and believes that Witter is not taking him too seriously. Well, neither am I.

A bet on Witter can not be recommended, unless the Nottingham Arena is set up for a foot race. Witter is both the puncher and boxer in this matchup.

Bradley will be applying pressure in an effort to wear down the older man. And why am I taking this so seriously?

I’m not.

But, it’s always a pleasure to remember those war stories from the Tyson front. A 38-second fight was not worth a transatlantic trip, but editors knew Tyson stories sold.

Like his prefight anger at Frank Warren for not paying for all the jewelry Tyson bought on his previous trip to the UK, when he knocked out Julius Francis in Manchester.

I remember it rained there, too, but at least the Manchurians had the good sense to come inside and stage the fights indoors.